Softwood: The Final Capitulation

“Guys, stop it! You’re gonna embarass me at George’s birthday party.”

PM Harper clings to a crappy deal over the objections of companies representing half the exports to the US. Closer ties to Bush under conservative continentalism have not seemed to win us any favours. Oh, and by the way, Prime Minister Accountability, would you please release the text of the deal?
Then there is the Trade Minister, David Emerson, who as CEO of Canfor launched a NAFTA investor-to-state, or Chapter 11, challenge to the duties imposed by the US. Now his message is “suck it up.” Meanwhile much of the mainstream press are saying this is the best we are ever going to do; the same media who trumpeted guaranteed access to the US market under the Canada-US Free Trade Deal.

Perhaps they are right, since neither the Harper government nor the Martin or Chretien governments were willing to play hardball on this issue. If we did play tough, by denying the US some of the benefits they enjoy under NAFTA, I bet they would actually respect us more – and we would get a real deal.
The Globe’s John Ibbitson says this is not worth losing NAFTA over, a strange comment as this “deal” says that NAFTA is not worth the paper it is written on. In any event, in the absence of NAFTA, the sky would not fall. Canada could access the US market under WTO rules and the change would be minimal as far as tariffs go, plus we could ditch the awful NAFTA investment chapter and the rights to control our energy sector that we gave up – in exchange for guaranteed market access – in the original FTA.

Harper closes door on softwood debate

Lumber negotiations are over, Ottawa says

With reports from Petti Fong, Bertrand Marotte and Matthew Kwong

OTTAWA, WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is plowing forward with the July 1 Canada-U.S. softwood truce over the objections of industry and British Columbia, declaring that negotiations are over.

“The softwood lumber deal is going ahead,” Mr. Harper told reporters yesterday as he arrived in Washington on the eve of his White House visit with President George W. Bush, saying the agreement is an accurate reflection of the original framework struck April 27.

“We expect to have the same support for it as we had for the original agreement. . . . We’re taking it to Parliament in the fall,” he said.

Separately, International Trade Minister David Emerson said he has no intention of reopening the deal he initialled last weekend, declaring himself “puzzled and surprised” by the B.C. government’s request for a 12-month dispute-free period if Canada cancels the deal.

“As far as I am concerned, negotiations are complete,” Mr. Emerson said in an interview. He said the province’s request doesn’t make sense: “It’s a bit like if you’re a CEO and you get a severance package if you get fired, but you also want a severance package if you quit.”

Industry opposition has centred on a clause allowing either side to cancel the deal after 23 months.

But Mr. Emerson suggested that some companies have a stake in keeping the five-year dispute alive. “I am not sure that some of the companies actually want to solve this problem,” he said. “It may be in the corporate interests of some . . . to continue litigation and pick up some cheap companies along the way.”

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